Hospitals, and medical clinics in general, have complex and ever-changing environments. However, one thing that never changes is the overall commitment to put patients first and ensure that they’re provided with the best possible experience. First and foremost, that experience is about health and making sure patients are treated as quickly as possible with no complications. To that end, everything from bedside manner to wait times are closely monitored in an effort to provide patients with the best possible care. In order to accomplish the medical tasks that heal the patients, everything from diagnostics and treatments, to surgery and rehab, the IT department plays a bigger role than we might think.
IT affects patient experience in two primary ways: direct and indirect. Direct IT patient experience is the term for where technology meets patients individually. For example, the online web portal, WiFi while at the hospital, appointment booking, etc. are all examples of direct IT patient experience and they directly affect how a patient feels about their care. Indirect IT patient experience, while more subtle, is just as important to the overall patient satisfaction as it is responsible for the delivery of healthcare. A common example of indirect experience is when doctors or admin staff are unable to pull critical files or information prior to an appointment or urgent visit which in turn keeps the patients waiting and delays their care. Failing at indirect patient experience can be extremely subversive to overall patient satisfaction and below are three key situations that IT departments need to be aware of in order to avoid costly experience missteps.
Patient Records Are Everything
Imagine sitting down with a patient, ready to conduct an exam, when you realize that your computer or tablet will not load their records. This leaves you with no access to their medical history, allergy information, etc. You are stuck, and so is the patient, until you are able to either track down a working computer or a member of the IT team to fix whatever is going on. You don’t have time to wait for IT to fix it, so you try another machine hoping that one will work. And the whole time that you are scrambling, the patient is sitting, waiting and, potentially, losing confidence by the minute that they came to the right place. When you finally recover their records fifteen or twenty minutes later you can start the exam, but it’s simply been too long. The experience failed this patient.
Now, think of how the example changes if the record popped up right away. No one would rush to IT and give them a high five or thank them over email later, but the exam would move forward without issue. In this case, when the patient talks to their friends and family it isn’t about the long wait and complaining that “they couldn’t even pull up my records.” Instead, their conversation is about the provider and the care they received.
Clearly, we would all much prefer the second option, but technical problems happen and no one can guarantee that they won’t. Although that is true, a proactive IT team that leverages real-time device and application data can anticipate problems and remediate them before even the user realizes they have them. This allows the other elements of patient experience to shine without IT casting a shadow over them.
The Trouble With Tagged Machines
Remember in the first example how the provider just cast the non-working machine aside in a rush to find one that did work? Well, after the appointment, they probably went and told their colleagues to be careful of the computer in that room and warned them not to use it. This is a common practice in hospitals and clinics where many different people use the same computers and devices throughout the day. The problem, however, is that the only people who don’t know about the non-functioning device is IT. Therefore, it never gets fixed and providers and staff are forced to find work-around solutions that further complicates the process of delivering exceptional care.
IT can’t fix what they don’t know about. To that end, it is critical that IT teams take an endpoint-focused approach to managing workstations and devices. By focusing in on what is happening at an endpoint level, IT teams can see which machines are never used or which are using an incredible amount or memory (something that is indicative of problems). This pulls back the curtain for IT teams and allows them to fix issues even when they aren’t told about them.
Telehealth and the Future of Healthcare
Telehealth is no longer a nice, additional benefit that healthcare organizations can offer their patients. It is a necessity in today’s world and will become increasingly important over the next several years. Telehealth provides incredible benefits to patient experience, but the technology aspect is something that makes many healthcare executives nervous. For example, the video must be clear, patient records must be easily accessible from anywhere, there can’t be latency issues, etc. The fact is that much of the success of these initiatives falls squarely on the shoulders of IT teams and it can be an overwhelming responsibility.
Telehealth is the culmination of all of the challenges facing IT in one package. The technology needs to work, fixes need to be implemented quickly, providers need to be trained, and much more. With so much to manage, IT needs to take a step back and start building processes and systems from a place that they know can drive success. It should all be built starting with patient experience in mind and making decisions based on how it will affect that patient experience. The key is to start the process in a place where you know success will be measured so that you have a leg up when strategically planning implementation.
Patient experience is a critical measurement for the overall success of a hospital or clinic, and it is only becoming more important. As the healthcare sector becomes increasingly more digital, the responsibility of patient experience will fall more squarely on IT teams. Those teams that begin building infrastructure starting with the patient in mind today will be in the best position to succeed in the future.
Vincent Bieri is a co-founder of Nexthink, a digital experience management provider that allows enterprises to create highly productive digital workplaces for their employees by delivering optimal end-user experience. Bieri brings more than fifteen years of experience in technology marketing, sales, and product management, most notably at Cisco Systems. Vincent holds a degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences in Fribourg, Switzerland.